Winter Solstice 20-23 December in the Northern Hemisphere 20-23 June in the Southern Hemisphere
The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year. We have arrived at the point in the year when the darkness has expanded to its fullness and must now bow down to the sun. It is a time of hope and a time to dream the life you wish for into being. During the remaining winter months your yoga practice can help to banish the winter blues, boost your mood, support and energise you.
The Sun, reborn at the Winter Solstice is like a new moon; for the first few days of the moon’s waxing cycle the new moon is not yet visible in the sky; in the same way at the Winter Solstice it is not immediately evident that the light has returned. Winter stretches out before us; the sun is low in the sky and casts long shadows; and summer still seems a far-off dream. However, although it is not apparent to us yet, the Earth’s energy has shifted from: darkness to light; moon to sun; yin to yang; water to fire; inner to outer; and from contemplation to action.
Sol means “Sun” and sistere means “to stand still”. Here at the Winter Solstice the sun appears to stand still before it changes direction. We too stand still; we pause and look back over the journey that we have taken over the dark half of the year. This has been a journey that has followed a path that has spiralled inwards to the centre of our being. And now we reflect upon what we have learned along the way and consider what wisdom we will be taking with us into the new solar year. Like the Sun we stand still and prepare to change direction. We turn our face to the sun and look towards the path that spirals back out into the world.
Winter Solstice Yoga to Awaken the Light Within
The rebirth of the light at the Winter Solstice is a sattvic moment. Sattva is the white thread of creation, and it is the quality associated with lucidity, clarity, purity, and light. At the solstice the light is just like a pinprick of light streaming into a darkened room, but over the coming weeks and months the light will expand until the room is flooded with shafts of bright sunlight. Whether you are old or young you will sense that sattvic shift of energy that occurs at the solstice and you will feel a sense of hope stirring deep within you with the return of the Sun.
Before long the first spring flowers, white yellow, and golden, will appear bringing light into the darkness and heralding that spring is on the way. Over the coming growing season our challenge will be to stay connected to this light, clear sattvic energy within, so that all our actions are guided by our inner wisdom. At the Winter Solstice we pause to celebrate the pure sattvic quality of the light reborn and we create a space within our heart to welcome back the new-born light.
Performing rounds of Salute to the Sun (Surya Namaskar) is a wonderful way to welcome back the Sun at the Winter Solstice. Surya means sun and Namaskar means to bow to. You can bring warmth into a cold winter’s day by picturing a warm glowing sun at your solar plexus as you perform Salute to the Sun.
Tree Wisdom in Winter
Spending time around trees is the perfect way to connect to the importance nature places upon conserving energy and resting during this cold, dark winter period. When you are out and about stop and spend some time mindfully observing a tree bare of all its leaves. Notice the shape the bare tree forms. Notice the space around the tree and the sky above it. Do the same mindful observations with an evergreen tree. As you do this mindfulness exercise notice how you are feeling, what you are thinking, how your body is feeling, and the rhythm of your natural breath. If you are feeling cold notice how it feels to be cold. If you are feeling snug and warm in your winter gear, notice how that feels too.
Last December, doing research for this book, I headed up into the hills in pursuit of some ancient holly trees. With a bitingly cold wind blowing against me I walked for a few miles uphill and eventually found an ancient grove of holly trees. The winter landscape was grey and bleak, but there was something exuberant and joyful about these holly trees growing on the hillside. Their old, curved and contorted branches made them look like they were striking a pose and dancing. Their shiny, prickly, green leaves and red berries caught the light and gave them a luminescent, spiritual feel. And young slender branches were growing out of the old wood. The holly tree has taught me to dance through the seasons and to stay connected to my joy even on the darkest and coldest of winter days. It was mindfully spending time with these holly trees that inspired me to write my Meditation Upon a Holly Tree at Winter Solstice that can be found in my Yoga Through the Year Book.
Winter Solstice Meditation Questions
The sun is reborn at the Winter Solstice
What is being reborn in me at this time?
What are my hopes and dreams for the coming year?
What do I want to achieve during the coming growing season?
What am I passionate about? What lights my fire?
How will I stay in touch with my inner wisdom whilst taking action in the world?
A full set of Winter Solstice Meditation Questions can be found in the Yoga Through the Year book
Yoga Through the Year Book
In the Winter Solstice chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book you will also find:
A Winter Solstice Salute to the Sun yoga practice
Solar Powered Breathing exercise
The Four Minute Check-in Meditation
Ideas for Trees and Creativity during winter
Yoga philosophy and inspiration for the season...and more...